- Founding phase: 1947 - 1960
As early as 1947, a chair for applied optics was planned to be included in the faculty of mechanical engineering at the Polytechnic University of Stuttgart. In 1949, the main purpose of the chair was specified, but another nine years passed before the new chair was approved with the budgetary grant in 1956. Prof. Reinhart Schulze was then appointed professor on Feb. 1st 1960 for the Chair of Applied Optics and the Institute of Applied Optics (ITO) in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering.
- The foundation: 1960 - 1978
Prof. Schulze began to establish the institute with just one colleague in two rooms in a barrack on Huberstraße in Stuttgart. By the autumn of 1976, the institute had grown to 16 rooms and eight employees. In June '77, the institute moved into its current location at Pfaffenwaldring 9 in Stuttgart-Vaihingen. The range of given courses offered to students in the field of applied optics was also expanded by lectureships. Thus the ITO participated in the study courses "Precision Engineering", "Physics Engineering" and " Mechanical Engineering".
The research work raised from various third-party funding partners mainly resulted in dissertations in the fields of applied optics, holography, interferometry and non-contact optical metrology. The development of Friedrich Aurin's micro-optical bank in 1964, for which the company Spindler and Hoyer acquired the licence for production and which is still sold and used worldwide in a modified form today, deserves special mention here.
- Expansion and extension: 1978 - 2002
On May 1st, 1978 Prof. Hans J. Tiziani succeeded Prof. Schulze as head of the institute. The research focus was set on innovative areas of high-resolution surface and 3D metrology, especially in the micro and nano range, speckle interferometry and holography as well as optical information processing and storage. Traditional optical metrology in manufacturing and quality control became increasingly important due to the growing industry in Baden-Württemberg.
- The years 2002 - 2019
In early September 2002, Prof. Wolfgang Osten was appointed head of the institute. The research work concentrated on the investigation of new optical measuring principles and their implementation in stand-alone sensors and sensor systems.
Particularly noteworthy is the founding of the "Stuttgarter Research Center of Photonic Engineering - SCoPE" in 2009, with ITO as major contributor. Also, the start of the degree program "Biomedical Engineering" with the semester 2010/2011 and the associated endowed professorship "Optics Design and Simulation", to which Prof. Dr. Alois Herkommer was appointed, deserves particular emphasis. In 2012, SCoPE in collaboration with ITO established the new master degree program "Photonic Engineering".